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Heisman bid is no laughing matter

Let's just go ahead and get this out of the way, shall we?

Kyle Orton goes into today's name-making nationally televised game at Notre Dame as master of his domain.

Orton, Purdue's senior quarterback, is a major fan of the Seinfeld comedy series. So much so that he has dog named Elaine (a fact that is certain to thrill Julia Louis-Dreyfuss).

"I probably spend too much time watching that show," Orton said. "It's one of those deals where I come home from watching film and sometimes I catch back-to-back episodes of Seinfeld. My roommates don't watch it with me anymore because I repeat all the lines."

If Seinfeld was all about nothing, Orton is all about something. As the season moves into October, Orton has emerged as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. Defending Heisman winner Jason White of Oklahoma and preseason favorite Matt Leinart of Southern California have been solid, but Orton has been spectacular.

Through three games, Orton has thrown 13 touchdown passes with no interceptions. Over the past two seasons, he has 520 pass attempts with just seven interceptions.

The Boilermakers are ranked 15th in this week's Associated Press poll. If Orton can help Purdue win in South Bend -- something that hasn't happened in 30 years -- against an Irish team that has won three in a row, the Heisman campaign will be in full stride.

Purdue has a history of top quarterbacks, such as Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Mark Herrmann, Jim Everett and Drew Brees. And since Joe Tiller arrived as coach in 1997, the Boilermakers have become QBmakers.

Tiller's offensive system spreads the field with four wide receivers and puts the decision-making burden on the quarterback. Audibles at the line of scrimmage and correct decisions as to where to throw the ball require practice and mental toughness.

"We look for competitiveness No. 1, intelligence No. 2 and ego management No. 3," Tiller said of his recruiting philosophy. "This guy Orton has high marks in all three categories."

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the native of Altoona, Iowa, is strong and tough -- he played the entire game after dislocating his left (non-throwing) thumb in the first quarter of last season's Capital One Bowl.

"I'd rather take a hit in the mouth than throw a pick," Orton said.

A week ago at Illinois, Purdue was leading 17-13 in the third quarter and the Illini were gaining momentum. The Boilermakers faced a third-and-10 from the Illinois 49.

Orton noted Illinois was in blitz mode. He also saw that running back Brandon Jones had released down the middle of the field and was wide open. Orton lofted a perfect pass for a touchdown.

"He made the same audible check twice in that game and that's one more demonstration of his maturity as a quarterback," Tiller said. "That's one of the most difficult passes to make, when a guy's that wide open.

"It looks really simple. People see that and say, 'Hey, I could complete that pass.' I'd like to see those people go out there and try."

A Purdue player has never won a Heisman Trophy. Griese (1966) and Phipps (1969) finished second while Brees (2000) finished third. As Seinfeld's Soup Nazi might say "No trophy for you."

If the Boilermakers beat Notre Dame and their quarterback keeps throwing touchdown passes, Orton might make a Heisman entrance that would shame Kramer.
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